Under-Realised Eschatology vs. "Dominionism"

Brian LePortBrian LePort of Near Emmaus writes an excellent post Jesus and the Occupy Movement. There is a lot that I could say in response to this and concerning the Occupy movement. But I am still busy here in the USA, so I only have time for this quote, which is peripheral to Occupy but central to the more basic issue of Christian involvement in politics:

Another approach is an under-realized eschatology wherein all “change” in this age is not worth pursuing. There is no hope for good to prevail until Jesus establishes his Kingdom on earth. If we oppose violence we are trying to “establish” the Kingdom of God. If we oppose greed we are trying to “establish” the Kingdom of God. Often this comes from people who are quite comfortable with the current dynamics of this world. This allows them to ignore Jesus’ Kingdom activities which challenged the systems of the world and that he expected his disciples to continually reenact.

This is certainly an important insight, that those who object strongly to Christian activity in the political world have an “under-realised eschatology”, that is, they don’t understand the extent to which the work of Jesus in saving the world has already been accomplished. These people complain about so-called “dominionism”, which they see as Christians trying to take control of the world, because they fail to see that Jesus has already defeated the powers of evil and set up his kingdom.

Ironically only yesterday I reacted in a comment to the opposite error. Phil Whittall, in his review of When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson, questioned “why God has to invade His own earth and infiltrate governments that He presides over”, suggesting an over-realised eschatology in which God is already in complete control of the world and so Christian activity to take this control is unnecessary. I pointed out how this contradicts 1 John 5:19; it also goes against what we see in our nations today.

In contrast to both of these positions, I would take a middle line, that God’s kingdom has been inaugurated on earth and is already breaking into the world system controlled by the evil one. On this basis the Christian responsibility is to seek to extend this kingdom, not so that the church can take control of the world but so that God can, so that Jesus can truly reign as King.

Of course this raises all kinds of questions about how the kingdom should be extended in practice. Certainly some of the ways that have been suggested, such as the Reconstructionist agenda of imposing Old Testament law on modern society, are sub-Christian and quite wrong. But we must resist the under-realised eschatology which leads to passive acceptance of the wrongs of this world – especially when this is used as an excuse by comfortable and prosperous Christians to refuse to do anything about the evil and the suffering which they see around the world and very often even in their own neighbourhoods.

0 thoughts on “Under-Realised Eschatology vs. "Dominionism"

  1. Peter
    “God’s kingdom has been inaugurated on earth and is already breaking into the world system controlled by the evil one.”
    Yes I see an important point here. And it ties in with the call from such as Adrian Warnock and Tom Wright to recognise and live in the resurrection. Not to mention your recent string of posts. And I will not understate the challenge of finding your middle way. But this is an area I feel a growing burden about.

    I will be interested if you decide to take this one further when time permits

  2. I’d be interested to see your comments on Phil W’s review please – his site isn’t opening up its comments. Can you help please? Phil’s observations are odd, but on checking his profile I espied the theological backdrop that explains his stance – it’s one I regarded as incomplete and thus moved out of some years ago.

  3. Richard, I’m surprised you can’t see comments on Phil W’s site, as I can. Here is my first comment on his post:

    I could try to discuss several of the issues you mention here, and defend Johnson’s position. But I will restrict myself for now to one of them. You write: “why God has to invade His own earth … is a little beyond me”. But who is in control of this world? According to 1 John 5:19, it’s not God. The detailed theology of this may be debatable. But the biblical picture I see is that, although the earth if indeed the Lord’s by right, it is currently occupied by evil forces, and God needs to take control of it, through his people. I’m not sure I would use the word “invade” as that implies entering a territory which is entirely under enemy control. Perhaps that is what Jesus did, on the cross and when he rose again. But what needs doing now is to liberate the entire world, and for that a spiritual war needs to be fought – although I too have issues with over-use of military terminology.

    And here is what I wrote in response to Phil’s reply:

    Thank you, Phil. I don’t really disagree with you. I just think it is a matter of finding the right balance, which may depend on the context. Bill Johnson may have gone a little too far one way. To start with you may gone too far the other way. But it is good that we have such discussions.

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